The last time I saw the USS New Jersey was in 1968. This battleship was in the Tonkin Gulf, along with us, during the Tet Offensive. We used “red lights” to preserve our “night vision” on the signal bridge, and on a clear moonless night, after an hour or so in the dark, I could see like a hungry cat searching for an elusive mouse. If you’re looking closely, you can see a slight curvature of the earth on the horizon at around 10 miles and the protruding masthead light from another ship. The white “bow” and “stern” lights of this large ship were easily visible as soon as they appeared just above the horizon.
It was important to know “who” was in the area at that time, and we had a method of identifying every new “light” on the dark sea. I focused my search light and sent the Morse Code pro-sign equivalent to “halt, identify yourself, or be fired upon” and after a brief pause, they replied “This is the USS New Jersey — fire at will”. I turned to my shipmate and said “wow….I just told the New Jersey to identify herself or I was going to blow her out of the water”. I never forgot that “challenge” even tho it was 46 years ago.
I have many memories from that period of time, some of them not so good, but when I heard the New Jersey (NJ2BB) last weekend, and was finally able to work her again, (in civilian life) it was like speaking to a ghost for me.
This weekend, I was also able to work several more ships. The most memorial to me was LST-325. I have a personal history with this ship; it was in our home town of Charleston WV last year. The previous year, I found this ship in Marietta Ohio and was able to use their ships radio to work a Coast Guard Museum radio station near Los Angeles California. A few weeks ago I worked one of the LST 325’s crew members (W8AU/M) who was driving along the interstate near Columbus Ohio. It was a long and enjoyable QSO.
The Nuclear Ship Savanna is the first ship of it’s type I’ve worked. I had no idea some cargo ships were nuclear powered? This was a big surprise to me.
This was the warship Haida located near Ontario Canada. (a fantastic signal by the way).
I’ve changed my “radio” focus since getting both my DXCC and WAS awards. (QRP at five watts or less of power and indoor stealth wire antennas). I work an occasional DX station with my “new straight key” but get my most joy from long conversations at a slow 15 wpm speed.
There are several hams that I enjoy talking with very much. I like the “Special Event Stations”, and will continue to work them, but I will be writing about friends and interesting places in the United States for awhile.
My “free time” has become very limited with my father approaching his 93rd birthday, and my five grand kids growing like billy goats. There’s just not enough hours in the day……